By Jeremy Walsh
An extra 75 feet is not a long way for a regular adult to walk, but for some senior citizens that extra distance between the Q60 bus and the Sunnyside Senior Center has created a serious hardship.
The city Metropolitan Transportation Authority removed the Q60 and Q32 bus stop on the corner of 39th Place and Queens Boulevard in November without warning, many seniors complained.
Now they have to walk from the next closest stop at 38th Street and Queens Boulevard, putting 75 feet and 39th Street between them and the senior center.
“We have many handicapped, frail and elderly people and they cannot handle that,” said Gertrude McDonald, a member of CB 2 and the senior center. “This crossing [at 39th Street] is very dangerous for people who have to walk slow. The cars give no preference to pedestrians.”
The MTA argued that the 10âˆ’mile Q60 line, between Jamaica and Midtown Manhattan, which it took over in 2005, had stops too close together.
“They were as close as 400 to 500 feet apart,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan, noting the agency’s guidelines call for stops no closer together than 750 feet. “Every time we stop a bus at a bus stop, it slows down the travel times for the passengers on the bus and it also interferes with the reliability of the route.”
Donovan did not have figures on how removing the stops improved the route’s reliability, but as the 175 to 200 seniors who go to the center every day for lunch and social activities can attest, the change has created some logistical headaches.
Some like Astoria resident Eileen Hand, 80, have sought transportation elsewhere.
“I have a walking problem and the bus stop down here is two blocks,” she said. “I had to apply for Accessâˆ’Aâˆ’Ride because the stop was too far away.”
Abe Vilensky, 85, president of the center’s advisory committee, called removing the stop “an unconscionable thing to do.”
“They didn’t think,” he said.
Some in the neighborhood wrote and petitioned the MTA, urging it to remove a stop elsewhere instead.
“We’ve had some replies, but nothing positive about reinstating the bus stop,” said Don McCallian, president of the United Forties Civic Association.
The seniors’ complaints caught the attention of City Councilman Eric Gioia (Dâˆ’Sunnyside), who said he was working with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (Dâˆ’Jackson Heights) and state Assemblywomen Cathy Nolan (Dâˆ’Ridgewood) and Marge Markey (Dâˆ’Maspeth) to try to convince the agency to restore service at the stop.
“The bureaucratic regulations cannot trump common sense,” Gioia said. “No senior should have to walk an extra block in the winter to get to the senior center.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by eâˆ’mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 154.